This post is a review of the cities we have stopped at for a day or long weekend along the journey … continue reading this is you fall into the following 3 categories:
Category 1: You are my parents and therefore read every post I write.
Category 2: You have interest in traveling to these places or have traveled to them and want to compare notes.
Category 3: You are me in a year and want to reminisce on my journey. 😉
If you do not fall into an above category but want to read on… that’s awesome and thanks 😉 and if you don’t want to read on but are still a little bit interested… our highlight reel has awesome photos from all of these places!
Ok… for those of you who are still with me… ENJOY!
Puerto Ayora, Isla Santa Cruz – Galapagos, Ecuador
PRO: If you are flying to Galapagos, you have to go through Isla Santa Cruz. Right away, you take a local boat across the clearest and most beautiful water you’ll ever see in your life while Blue Footed Boobies are diving into the water from 50 feet up in the air in hopes of catching a fish. Quite amazing first impression of the Galapagos. There’s a local street that they close off to put chairs and tables everywhere. There, you can have the best and biggest lobsters for very cheap prices. Also, Tortuga Beach is a 10 minute walk away. There you can see tortoises, iguanas, sea lions, a billion fish and birds, and massive pelicans waiting for your visit. As you can imagine, the beach has perfect white sand and turquoise clear water.
CON: It’s the biggest city/town in the chain of Galapagos Islands so it can be quite touristy. Locals are talking to you every 20 seconds to check out their restaurant, stores, or tours. In other islands, there are more remote beautiful beaches and excursions to experience.
PRO: A beautiful, colorful city that has a lot of historical background such as the Spanish Inquisition and the drug trafficking craziness. It has a very colonial vibe that has a mix of Europe and New Orleans with plazas around every corner. Definitely loved the vibe and life here in Colombia and would recommend visiting if just for a stopover or long weekend.
CON: The really cute quaint places are more on the expensive side. Some of the districts with the cutest cafes, best views and hotels are definitely pricey but for good reason and if you can afford it, it is beautiful. The weather was amazingly hot and humid which… if that isn’t your thing you can’t really get away from it. In addition, it isn’t a beach town unless you take a bus or boat to get to a beach, so keep that in mind when booking. Lastly, and very low on the radar, was the sense of safety although increasingly improving is something to consider.
PRO: What an amazing city. Definitely a walkable city although high in altitude and steepness of streets. Beautiful stone buildings and streets that envelope the city, llamas (or goats disguised as llamas) walking the streets, unique cuisine (like alpaca or guinea pig) and breathtaking excursions to go to from the city such as Macchu Picchu, Salkantay Mountains, Rainbow Mountains and loads more. If you are into Andean culture and history… there is so much amazing historical information here that for a Mesoamerica/Inca junkie like me, it’s wonderful.
CON: It gets cold depending on what time you go..so plan accordingly. It is very touristy and there are a lot of people, like you, crowding the once ancient Incan streets. Lastly, if not in good health or physical shape the walking and steepness might get old after a street or two.
Aguas Calientes, Peru
PRO: It’s a small town on the bottom of Machupicchu. Since Machupicchu was built for the purpose of being hidden in the mountain top of the Andes mountain range, Aguas Calientes was essentially built only after Machupicchu was discovered for tourists. So it’s a perfect little town to rest before and after your long hike. There are no cars, only a train track running right down the center of the town to import/export tourists and things. Pretty good food and apparently it has great hot springs on the mountain side…hence the name, Aguas Calientes (“Hot Waters”). One more PRO…on the way to Aguas Calientes from Cusco, you go through towns that are simply extremely fun to say, like “Ollantaytambo” and “Huayllabamba”
CON: I mean, it’s a little town. Nothing THAT interesting to see. If you’re not going to Machupicchu, then it’s pointless to be there. With that said, you should 100000% go to Machupicchu or Andes in general, it’s breath-taking.
Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica
PRO: It’s surrounded by the jungle and it’s hot. Oh… you want more? Puerto Viejo is beautiful and from what I hear, it is like that all year round. Even with the tropical rain showers it is still warm and honestly, being somewhere so beautiful it doesn’t really seem to matter. The beaches are great and right at your fingertips including white or black sand depending on your preference. The surf is great whether you do it or are just a bystander and the vibe is very chill and laid back. You can bike the expanse of the coast in less than 2 hours, because it’s all flat and the road follows the coastline. It’s a cool wildlife scene and you can see birds, monkeys and sloths by just riding a bike down the road.
CON: Costa Rica was definitely more expensive than Panama, so it can get pricey compared to other Central America countries. If not flying in but instead crossing the border, it was a crazy long process that seems fine because it’s cheaper than flying before you actually go through it.. I would say it was worth it… but not enjoyable. It does rain and you could end up biking or getting stuck on the beach in the rain but hey if you’re already in Costa Rica I’m sure you have learned to just go with the flow and live the “Pura Vida”.
Panama City, Panama
PRO: Loved Panama City, we stayed in Casco Viejo a district translated to mean “Old Town”. It was recommended to us by many people and we can see why. It is a super cute part of town that is extremely walkable and has great rooftop bars, live music spots and food around every corner. We didn’t venture anywhere else except the Panama Canal, which I could put on both my pro and con list.They have uber which is really convenient and safe. I would say Panama City is definitely worth a day or two as a stop over or if you need to kill some time between countries.
CON: There is a lot of construction going on, so it was hard to see the real authenticity of the district… I could see wanting to go back in a couple years and seeing the finished product. We didn’t get to other districts but heard that proper Panama City wasn’t all that great and just as a side note there is bad traffic getting to and from the airport, so something to be aware of. We heard it is unsafe from a couple different people but we didn’t experience any of this, or have this feeling but again we were only there for one day.